The Open Road #3

Jack again with his usual Wednesday guest post – –

Before the episode when the Spitfire almost killed me, I had a couple of Minis. One was a van version and the other was the regular sedan.

The Mini was a brilliant and very innovative design – the first (I think) front wheel drive car with a transverse engine. The designer simply took an existing small engine, turned it sideways and stuck the transmission underneath. But it did have problems!

Although the design was good the workmanship wasn’t. They leaked in the rain, they were prone to rust and the doors didn’t fit well. Because of the transverse engine, the radiator grille was behind the wheel well, but it had to look like other cars, so it had a completely unnecessary grille on the front. Because of the orientation of the engine that open grille was right in front of the spark plugs, so driving behind another vehicle in the rain – – –

Most folk blanked off the front with cardboard or plywood or metal.

But having said all that, they were fun cars and took me all over Scotland. They were light and agile, with good acceleration and felt very safe with their wheels right out on all four corners. Although small they were surprisingly roomy inside.

I remember one occasion when I had the brakes serviced and one of them hadn’t had the fluid valve closed completely. I was heading from Fife across to Edinburgh via the recently opened Forth road bridge, which had toll booths back then. It was as I approached the booth that the brakes gave out. I sailed through, turned and came back through the booth on the other side and finally managed to halt at the first one by grabbing the parking brake! The booth attendant was highly amused – I was red faced – –

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